Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a national treasure and still the number one highest scorer in NBA history. But aside from his athletic accolades, Abdul-Jabbar has been a staunch advocate of shining a light on the excellence of Black people and fighting racial injustice against marginalized people.
The National Basketball Association acknowledged the human rights activist with the announcement of the Social Justice Champion Award last week, naming it in honor of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This award will be presented by the league after selecting a player after each season who “demonstrates a commitment to bringing awareness to social justice and inequalities.”
Each NBA club will nominate one player for the award, and finalists of the group will donate a combined $200,000 to social justice organizations, according to ESPN.
“I’m honored and grateful to be associated with this award that will recognize the dedicated and selfless people fighting to promote social justice for all marginalized people,” said Abdul-Jabbar in a statement to The Undefeated. “It’s nice to see the NBA try to promote social justice awareness, and I am very flattered they would see fit to name the award after me. To me, it’s another giant step in the right direction for the country and all people who value equality.”
A six-time NBA champion and esteemed Hall of Famer, Abdul-Jabbar, 74, has never been shy in discussing inequality in the Black community, creating books, documentaries, and other projects that speak to the need for more education and financial resources. “Black Americans are often the last hired and the first fired; we can change that,” Abdul-Jabbar told CNBC’s Closing Bell last June. “There’s a lot of positive ways we can relate to our fellow citizens and work on this problem and eliminate it.”
The past few years have found the NBA increasing its focus on social justice and inequality matters since athletes have begun to step up and speak out. The league committed $300 million to assist underserved areas and combat income inequality among Black people. The league distributed another installment of the grants to social organizations last month.
“In addition to being one of our greatest players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has devoted much of his life to advocating for equality and social justice,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “With this new award, we are proud to recognize and celebrate NBA players who are using their influence to make an impact on their communities and our broader society.”
The finalists will be selected by a committee that includes former NBA players, league executives and social justice leaders. Plans are to announce the first recipient during this year’s postseason, which starts next week.